As a human in my mid-30s with two kids and a full schedule, I really don’t go “out” all that often. In general, it’s just not my thing. The clubs are full of younger people trying to pick up other younger people, and tend to play music I’m not into very loudly. Smaller dive bars can be cliquish. I’m a geek who prefers something eclectic and off-the-wall-sort-of-friendly. Otherwise, my idea of going out is to pop over to a friend’s place to hang in.
So, when I went to Los Angeles on vacation to visit family and my cousin exclaimed, “I found these bars you HAVE to go to!” I was a bit skeptical. However, her descriptions of these two bars, which just happened to be across the street from one another, did pique my interest. So, we resolved to go to both of them on St. Patrick’s Day, of all days!
As we rounded the corner on Hollywood Blvd., I was dialed in to the stars on the Walk of Fame. When I looked up, there was our first spot—Scum and Villainy Cantina. I mean, c’mon!
Star Wars fans, rejoice. There is a place in Los Angeles just for you, and it’s straight out of your favorite fictional universe. Scum and Villainy takes the cantina from the movies and plops it right into California.
On a normal day, you can find people traipsing in and out of the place in full-blown cosplay, which really makes the place feel like you’re in the movie. We happened to be there on St. Patrick’s Day, so there was less of that and more GREEN. Still, I expected to look over into one of the booths in the corner and see Han Solo chatting with Greedo.
Even though it’s based off of Star Wars, Scum and Villainy doesn’t limit itself to only that universe. It considers itself a “Geek Bar” as opposed to strictly a “Star Wars” bar. The whole place is dripping in geek culture. I soon spotted Smeagol from Lord of the Rings atop a fridge at the bar, and Dobby from Harry Potter fame hanging out near the front door with a collection of socks. Even the tap handles are themed to match the decor.
Scum and Villainy also uses a service called Outloud—an app-based music service in which patrons vote on which songs they would like to hear next from the social jukebox. The songs on the list can also be down-voted, so someone can’t play a song over and over if everyone else doesn’t want to hear it—a nice feature the app has over a traditional jukebox. Everything on their playlist is fantasy or sci-fi themed in some way.
Their drink choices are also named after various geek culture themes. There are “First Person Shooters” including “Doom,” mixed drinks including “The Serenity,” and margaritas such as “Black Widow.” My cousin ordered a “Wretched Blue Milk,” which contained rum, Coco Lopez, Blue Curacao, pineapple juice, and a glow stick. Since I was driving, I ordered a cocktail called “Starry Eyes” created by Nikki Sixx, which had sugar-free Red Bull, blackberries, pineapple, and cayenne pepper.
We sipped our drinks and soaked in the atmosphere, which was super friendly. After taking a few pictures and talking about features of the bar, we noticed it was starting to get a bit crowded, so we decided to hit up our second stop. I’m not sure I was really ready for the switch from generally sci-fi/fantasy geekery to dark fantasy horror/comedy, but I was going in anyway.
A little batty
Right across the street from Scum and Villainy lays another bar in wait. Though it’s also a niche bar, it’s completely different. We once again showed our IDs, but this time we got our hands stamped—with a picture of flying bats. From the moment we stepped inside Beetle House LA it was an onslaught of everything Tim Burton, and I loved every facet of it. Halloween is my favorite holiday, so this was definitely right up my alley.
I followed my cousin up the stairs and entered into a twisted world of eternal weirdness. There was a lot of seating available in different corners, with everything from Pee-Wee Herman to Mars Attacks adorning the walls. Even the bar looks like every day is Halloween a la Nightmare Before Christmas. One of my favorite pieces was a beam featuring Beetlejuice’s head from a scene near the end of the movie. There was so much to examine, you really have to go to understand the magnitude of nostalgia that awaits you.
In the back of the building there’s a reservation-only restaurant, which features dinner and a magic/freak show. This is something I plan to come back and do for my birthday. I did not buy a drink (remember—driving), but there were several I noted for future reference. “This is Halloween” and “Alice’s Cup o’ Tea” sounded great, and topping my list is “Edward Burger Hands.”
It was starting to get late, and people were filtering in—both to take pictures and to have a good time—so we decided to take our leave and head back home before the St. Patrick’s Day activities got too wild for us to handle. Driving back I thanked my cousin for not only telling me about Scum and Villainy and Beetle House LA, but also for getting me to go in the first place. We had a great time, but next time, I’m taking an Uber.